Friday, March 13, 2009

Crouching Buzzard - Computer Gaming

Gaming is a big business, whether it's board gaming or electronic gaming. (We're not going to talk about "Las Vegas-style gaming here!)

Electronic gaming breaks down into four fairly broad sections:

Console Games (Like the Nintendo units, or the PS3 from Sony,) This vaguely includes Arcade Games. (Yes, there are still arcades out there!)

Handheld games (like Gameboy, or any of the cheap little dedicated units you get at stores like Target, that play only one game)

Computer Games

Online Gaming

Arcade and console games are probably the ones the older folk remember best. Did you ever go to the Pinball Parlor? Or did you have a copy of Pong on you State-of-the-Art Atari game system? Pong was an earth-shattering hit in the 1970s, and Pinball Parlors were convincing adults that their children were headed for Trouble for decades.

The Atari system was great, but the best gaming was still only available on the "video pinball machines" that were only available in Pinball Parlors (slowly being repurposed into video arcades.) It was Super Mario Brothers, on the fledgling Nintendo console in the mid 1980s that was the next huge wave in home gaming. Every kid had to have one, and parents learned to haunt Toys R Us, as that was often the easiest and cheapest place to get game cartridges. One thing led to another, and we have the PS3, the Wii, and other home consoles sucking up the home gaming dollars.

The handheld units were often very simple "poker games" or even tamagochis (digital pets). But the handheld systems got increasing popular with the Gameboy, the Sega Game Gear, and all that followed. Now we're going back to the beginnings with uber-tamagochis - Nintendogs for the Nintendo DS handheld system.

Computer games have been around just about as long as computers. I remember playing "Moon Lander" on a key-punch computer. And Pong turned out to be a fairly simple game to program, along with simple versions of checkers and backgammon. (Anyone else remember "Hunt the Wumpus"? Or the old text-version of Zork?)

Because the board games, like Dungeons and Dragons, were becoming increasingly popular and complicated, they started to migrate over to the computer, just to keep track of all the myriad of tiny details involved. One thing there led to another also, and the computer games are unbelievably life-like now. (One apocryphal story involved a helicopter flight simulator set in Australia, and the programmers had mooched some code from an infantry combat simulator. When the simulated helicopter buzzed some simulated kangaroos, the kangaroos all ducked behind a hill and emerged blazing away with machine guns and rocket launchers...)

Computer games is about the era when Crouching Buzzard is set.

Mix computer games with the Internet, and you get MMOGs and other totally interactive games.

Do you think that Lawyers from Hell would convert into a decent interactive online game?

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